Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christ the King Sermon 2014

Christ The King Sunday, November 23, 2014
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him,
then he will sit on the throne of his glory.
All the nations will be gathered before him,
and he will separate people one from another
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand,
"Come, you that are blessed by my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him,
"Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food,
or thirsty and gave you something to drink?
And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you,
or naked and gave you clothing?
And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?'
And the king will answer them,
"Truly I tell you,
just as you did it to one of the least of these
who are members of my family,
you did it to me.'
Then he will say to those at his left hand,
"You that are accursed,
depart from me into the eternal fire
prepared for the devil and his angels;
for I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  
I was a stranger and you did not welcome me,
naked and you did not give me clothing,
sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
Then they also will answer,
"Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison,
and did not take care of you?'
Then he will answer them,
"Truly I tell you,
just as you did not do it to one of the least of these,
you did not do it to me.'
And these will go away into eternal punishment,
but the righteous into eternal life."
-Matthew 25:31-46

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,

-Ephesians 1:17-18b

Good morning, again!

Good morning!

Happy Last Sunday Of The Church Year!

Today, according to the liturgical calendar,
is Christ the King Sunday.
Christ The King Sunday....

In contrast to, say, Christmas, or Easter, or even All Saints Day,
Christ The King Sunday is a newer feast of the church.

This building predates its institution.

Christ the King, actually, was only instituted in 1925,
by a Roman Catholic pope by the name of Pius XI.

And it is celebrated always on the last Sunday of the church year.

It “crowns” the year, at the end of ordinary time, as we start over.

We announce Christ as King, while we get ready
to get ready,
as move into the season of Advent,
a season of preparation,
and of expectation,
and of hope,
(and a few other things that hopefully we’ll unpack in the coming weeks)
Christ the King “crowns the year”
as we prepare for Christmas,
as we arrive to find the King who is supposed to have been born...
in a manger,
“between homes,”
who, in the beginning, was the Word, who will come to Reign as King, who will be called Prince of Peace.  

(The kids will tell us all about the Christmas story in the pageant in just a few weeks)!
The scripture for Christ the King Sunday, is often Christ the King on a Cross,
being ridiculed,
promising a thief he will be with him in Paradise,
or being sold off and betrayed by one of his close friends.  

This year, in comparison,
this “cycle,”
the Gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday
is Christ the King,
found in the hungry,
and alien (read: immigrant),
and the prisoner.

Christ the King seen through the eyes of our hearts
not in splendor and glory,
but in the weak and the needy, in the addicted and the annoying, in the folks that would be easier to deal with if we could just hide them away in a ghetto or the projects somewhere...
In these people dwells our King--the one to whom we offer allegiance, as Christians.
(It’s hard to celebrate Jesus as Christ the King without just a little bit of irony--or, if not irony, perhaps, subversiveness).

And, as always, we do celebrate it.



First, let’s ask, Pope Pius XI,

“With all the church feast days and commemorations and everything else--Why do we celebrate yet another day? Out of all the other cool days we could possibly make up--why Christ the King?!”

And let’s ask our Lutheran leaders (some of them now retired), our foremothers and forefathers in the faith--and our Hymnal-writing teams a related question:
“If the Pope started this thing, in 1925, why did we Lutherans, along with the Anglicans and the Presbyterians and a bunch of other protestants come to celebrate it, as well?

What’s so special about it that we would snatch it up from the Roman Catholics--even post-Reformation?!
As cool as this new guy [Francis] seems, I thought we were over popes.

What’s going on here?

Besides, “Christ the King,”

Honestly, isn’t that a bit patriarchal-sounding for our more refined, more educated, and egalitarian, and justice-oriented tastes, anyway?

Really? Christ the King?


Briefly, on Pius XI:

Pius, actually, clearly in other encyclicals
[Just google him for a start. This stuff is all out there].
Pius was very much a
champion especially of the exploited working class.
He was also a harsh critic of greed.
And he even supported the rights of laborers to organize.

Pius was deeply aware of his context and his responsibilities as the Pope of a world religion.

But Christ The King Sunday was not about labor.
It was about loyalty and allegiance,
and therefore,

All that being said…

Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI,
89 years ago,
right at the time that Mussolini (remember Mussolini?)
was gaining popularity in Italy
and as fascism in Europe was “on the rise.”  

On the same Sunday,
Pius introduced a papal encyclical for the occasion.

A “holy” essay that came out at the same time as the celebration.

It was written to the bishops, officially, but it was circulated among anyone interested.

This encyclical,
titled Quas primas, or “In The First,”
(Written mostly by Professor Edouard Hugon)
did something kinda radical.

In The First
this papal encyclical,
reminded Christians
that the allegiance of Christians
is to Christ,
and the allegiance of Christians is to the Reign Christ proclaimed
(the Kingdom Christ proclaimed),
where the last are first and the lowly are exalted.

The allegiance of Christians is to Christ,
in the first,
Quas primas!
Christians are to pledge allegiance to Christ.
“To seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s Justice…”
His statement was both spiritual, and it’s political.

And in Pius’ time, of course, this Reign, God’s Reign stood
directly in contrast
to the reigns of both Mussolini and Hitler.

We might say it stands in contrast to any reign we’ve ever experienced...
Important stuff.

On Christ the King Sunday we both anticipate and remember
King Jesus,
the king born in a barn,
wrapped in a manger, helpless,
raised as an adopted son by a carpenter and his young fiance.
We anticipate and remember the king eating with the outcasts,
feeding the hungry,
kicking over “church” tables,
proclaiming “the one who is great becomes the servant of all”
“love your neighbor,” regardless of creed
“the first shall be last”
“the humble shall be lifted up”
“the prisoner shall be set free…”
we anticipate and remember the king
hanging from a tree,
and the king absent from the tomb;
the Crucified and the Resurrected One,
who promised his disciples before he left them,
that though he was gone he would still,
be present...

On Christ the King Sunday we both anticipate and remember
Christ’s presence and promise,

and we learn (again) to see Christ present,
among us,

We learn to see Christ in every need born of oppression or deprivation or circumstance.

We learn to see that Christ the king is served

not with riches or campaign contributions or even with schmeer campaigns--(and not from claiming victories not his own!),

No, we learn to see,  
that Christ is served
when the hungry are fed,
the thirsty drink,
the alien is no longer alienated,
the naked, the sick and the imprisoned are cared for as God incarnate, as Christ himself.

Somehow, our neighbors are Christ, and his throne, somehow, is this.
[point around the room]

Somehow, our neighbors are Christ, and his throne, somehow, is this.

At the same time, we pray for the Kingdom,
and we work for the Kingdom,

We wait for Christ’s promise, even as we do Christ’s work.

We look for the day
where valleys and hills are lowered and raised,
where Love reigns,
and war ceases.

For when Christ fully reigns,
hungry or thirsty,
or excluded or alienated,
or sick or in prison.

It’s hard to celebrate Christ the King Sunday
without sounding ironic--no, not ironic. Subversive.

It’s impossible to take Jesus seriously and not hear his call to care for the “least of these,”

to care for those “least,”
and to create churches,
and a world where there is no more
“least of these,”
but, rather, we are All, Together, One.

Happy Christ the King Sunday!
Happy Christ the King Sunday!


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